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Focus on Fathers

Alert and Active Participation in Childbirth:
Our Family's Home Birth Experience

Bob Battel
Reed City MI USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 5, September-October 2007, pp. 218-219

At first I thought my wife, Sue, was crazy. She was pregnant with our second child, and she brought up the subject of home birth. No, it wasn't the first time she had mentioned it, but because she was pregnant, the idea was much more real.

Sue had given birth to Addy, our first child, in a hospital. Yes, there were some interventions: she had been given Pitocin to speed the process. Yes, she was forced to lie flat on her back for almost the entire time, and yes, the nurse had screwed an internal fetal monitor into the top of our yet unborn child's head. But at the end, we had a perfectly healthy, precious baby girl. And what if there had been a medical emergency, requiring immediate care? That was the main reason I hesitated to agree to a home birth.

But, my mind also wandered to other unpleasant thoughts about our hospital birth. Like how when I carried our four-hour-old daughter out to the hospital hallway while her mother rested, to catch some daddy bonding time in a more comfortable chair, a nurse told me I must return to the room for security reasons. Or, how hospital rules did not allow our 12-year-old nephew into the room because he could be carrying unacceptable germs under his fingernails. We lied, and said he was 13. Also, how the nurses said we should feed Addy some formula from a cup because she "looked a little yellow" although her bilirubin level was normal, and how a nurse pressured Sue to let her take Addy to the nursery so she could get a little rest. So, my mind began to open a bit to the idea of home birth.

Sue set up an appointment for us to meet a local midwife, Deb. Meeting with Deb and continued assurances and pieces of information began to calm my home birth fears. Deb was very professional, and she assured us she would be quick to get Sue to the hospital if it were necessary. Our home is only a five-minute drive from our local hospital, and 25 minutes from the nearest hospital with a maternity ward. As I learned more, I eventually became more fearful of an unnecessary cesarean at a hospital than an untreatable medical emergency at home.

As time passed, with regular prenatal checkups and educational sessions with Deb, we began to look forward to the birth at home. I had Deb's phone number memorized, and had retrieved the special water birthing tub from her house. We were ready.

Late evening February 20, 2006, Sue had her first contraction. I made a quick call to Deb to let her know what was happening. Deb calmly told me to keep her informed of the situation. We slept peacefully at home that night.

The next morning, as we awoke, Sue discovered that her water had broken. I made another call to Deb. She calmly asked me if the fluid was clear and smelled like straw, or if it was "green like pea soup." I told her it was clear, but I hadn't smelled it. She said she would be over later that morning for a visit.

That day was filled with increasingly frequent and stronger contractions, and a couple of visits from Deb. The birth was progressing normally. There was no reason to speed it along, or interfere in any way. Deb got enough information about the health of the baby from a simple hand held ultrasound device, a fetoscope, and a couple of vaginal exams with Sue's permission. But the best part was that we were at home. Sue could get up and walk as she pleased since she was not hooked up to an IV. The surroundings were comfortable and relaxing.

After dinner, the contractions were close enough together that Deb was called to come over for the rest of the labor. I filled the birthing tub with warm water.

The labor was hard. Dori weighed in at nine pounds, two ounces. But between the birthing tub and our own bed, Sue was able to find alternate "comfortable" positions. Shortly after 12:30 in the morning on February 22, Dori Dian was born at home in water into my loving arms. And her big sister got to watch! That's something else that wouldn't have happened in a hospital.

Dori was a bit blue at first. Deb milked cord blood back into her, and she took her first couple of breaths. She was soon pink and beautiful, although it seemed like an eternity at the time.

After I suggested that Sue nurse Dori, Dori took her first gulps of her mother's milk in that birthing tub. She was nursing like a champ, and has continued to ever since.

The first several weeks of nursing Addy were rocky, partly due to Sue not knowing how to work with flat nipples, but also partly due to not getting enough help in the hospital. She didn't feel comfortable asking for help, and when she did, she got differing answers and felt as if she was bothering the nurses. Their best solution was to give Sue a nipple shield. The alert and active participation of a home birth experience was much more conducive to getting breastfeeding off to a good start with Dori.

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